5G is finally here and already making its impact in a big way, assuring super high-speeds and ultra-low latencies.
But then Wi-Fi is today ubiquitous, and its presence can be seen everywhere from offices to entertainment zones, public buildings, public spaces, and more. Its presence is so prevalent that many people find it difficult to visualize a world with a future based on any other connectivity.
Still, questions are being asked especially with 5G promising a giant leap to the next level from anything that came before, how much more powerful will it be and with its high bandwidth and low latency, will it kill or replace Wi-Fi altogether?
Nothing can be ruled out entirely. This is especially true when we talk about the rapidly moving world of wireless space. Henceforth, the reports of Wi-Fi’s death can be dismissed as greatly exaggerated.
WHY 5G CANNOT KILL Wi-Fi?
Here are some reasons as to why 5G cannot kill or eliminate Wi-Fi.
- Wi-Fi’s presence is almost ubiquitous, everywhere, and extremely successful as well, especially in businesses. Most organizations today have a corporate wireless LAN which enables them to secure and monitor their networks and guarantee data security, something that 5G cannot offer.
- Presently, many Wi-Fi enabled devices are available for purchase. In addition, there are some more that are still being made. This means that buyers have a large pool of choices to pick from.
- Significant number of devices in the market today are already Wi-Fi enabled. Further, Wi-Fi enabled devices like tablets and entertainment systems depend completely on Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet. These devices are very popular and extensively used around the world. With little chances of their demise anytime soon, Wi-Fi will be needed for long.
- Wi-Fi assures secure connectivity, something that is essential in today’s age of mobile and IoT, when cyber security is dictating boardroom conversations and business leaders are looking to connect their organizations securely.
- Wi-Fi has a higher penetration through laptops and mobile devices supporting it even in enterprises. This means it will not be easy to get rid of Wi-Fi from laptops devices, while it could be easier to eliminate from mobile devices and transit them completely to 5G.
- Wi-Fi, by and large, is not only free but also distinct as it is not owned or metered, or tracked by service providers.
- Use of Wi-Fi is still high in public transport (buses, trains, planes) even where it is backhauled by 4G and/or satellite. In addition, there is increasing use of Wi-Fi hotspots in cars (linked via LTE to the network).
- Huge push of Wi-Fi by fixed broadband, cable, and even some Wi-Fi-first MVNO providers, including outdoor/metropolitan zones. Currently, as per reports, it is being built into 500 million or more homes gateways around the world.
- 5G needs a major technology upgrade. To be fully utilized, it is estimated to cost mobile companies, device manufacturers, chip-makers, and software developers, around US$ 200 billion a year in research and capital spending. This means, in turn, the end-users will need to shell out a higher price for 5G.
- The Wi-Fi market, as per a report by MarketsandMarkets, is growing at an incredible pace, predicted to be worth around US$15.60 billion by 2022, fuelled by the explosion of mobile devices and rapid adoption of BYOD and IoT within enterprises.
- New Wi-Fi developments like the upcoming 802.1 lax are expected to deliver even faster speeds and perform much better in environments with a huge number of connected devices.
Above all, Wi-Fi is not only more affordable but also offers similar benefits in most cases to 5G. Furthermore, Wi-Fi infrastructure in many countries has been deployed and utilized for years. In the event of infrastructure upgrade which 5G entails, the cost and time would be enormous. For instance, widespread adoption of 5G in Asia alone means between 90 to 100 million homes will require the installation of devices that enhance cellular reception indoors (also known as Femtocells).
According to CISCO, with 5G technologies available in only a few nations and cities, the current limited 5G coverage will only account for 3% of wireless connections by 2022, which means consumers will have to do with the current broadband systems like 4G and Wi-Fi for a lot more period of time.
ENTRY OF Wi-Fi 6
Wi-Fi in recent years has been getting a much-needed upgrade. On 23rd April 2020, the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. voted on freeing up lots of spectrum for the next-generation of indoor wireless technology known as Wi-Fi 6.
What will make Wi-Fi 6 a standout are the following benefits:
- Achieves speeds up to one and a half times faster than WiFi5. With the maximum speed being 4.8 gbps per client.
- Ensures a much more reliable network connection with many end devices including Laptops, iPads, smart TVs, Video-game consoles, connected kitchen appliances, etc., connected to WLAN. Larger data streams can be processed faster and much more efficiently.
- Offers new neat features like an extension of devices battery life, etc.
When Wi-Fi 6 ultimately comes to be used extensively, 5G can complement it in some cases like:
- Residential fixed wireless use cases (like the 5G Home Service launched by VERIZON recently). Herein, 5G will help the service providers to do away with the need for digging their customer’s lawns for providing broadband services; reduce the cost of their dispatch operations; and enable customers to activate their internet connectivity services through self-serve mechanisms.
- In Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) use cases, the customer-premise equipment (CPE) can be connected to the 5G network for Internet connectivity, while local connectivity services can be offered through Wi-Fi 6.
- In Enterprises, rolling out Wi-Fi 6 is going to be a lot easier for the simple reason that the whole cost is going to be a lot cheaper than what is entailed with a similar rolling out of a 5G network. Further, Wi-Fi 6 rollout will also consume less time. Thus, Wi-Fi 6 can complement 5G in select Enterprise use cases.
The battle between WiFi6 and 5G will be more of a battle to grab more deployment footprint rather than a battle for existence or survival. But how that will pan out in the days ahead remains to be seen.
A LOOK AHEAD
The answer to ‘Will 5G kill Wi-Fi’ or ‘Will 5G replace Wi-Fi’ is uncertain as of now. But experts believe that there will be no winner or loser in the battle. Rather they believe that companies will probably use a combination of both technologies in ways that best suit their interests and goals. For example, they may use Wi-Fi for indoor environments with 5G for outdoor areas or industrial use cases that need agile, scalable network connectivity, and rely on reach, security, and quality of service.
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